Jaime Ferrán Clúa was born on February 1, 1951 in Corbera de Ebro and died in Barcelona on November 22, 1929, this internationally recognized bacteriologist was one of the first discoverers of a vaccine against cholera and then another against tuberculosis.
He was the son of the village doctor and graduated in Medicine in Barcelona in 1873. He went on to practice as a doctor in Pal del Panadés. By then he had explored the fields of photography, painting and electricity. Something always made him look beyond, and that nonconformist spirit led him to his discoveries. He soon had a consultation in Tortosa as a general practitioner and as a specialist in ophthalmology and electrotherapeutics. He also held at that time the positions of medical director of maritime health, director of the Civil Hospital and the Provincial House of Foundlings.
Given the prestige he was reaping as a doctor, despite his youth, he was commissioned in 1884, by the Barcelona City Council to Marseille to study ways to prevent a cholera epidemic that was spreading through France. When Ferrán Clúa got samples of the cholera bacillus that Koch had isolated before, he wanted to take five bottles to Catalonia to investigate, but once in La Jonquera customs they did not let him pass because they had orders to destroy the samples in order to prevent the disease from reaching Spanish territory. Ferrán was held at the border for eight days and of the five jars he carried in his suitcase, four were destroyed, while the fifth was hidden. With this sample he prepared a vaccine against cholera. To test its effectiveness he did it with himself and his family.
In 1885 when cholera was spreading in Valencia, Dr. Amalio Gimeno, fascinated by the important discovery, contacted Ferrán Clúa to go to Valencia, where he administered more than 30,000 doses of the vaccine; but the authorities, influenced by a group of opposing doctors, stopped the vaccinations. The fatalities shot up in Spain, however, of the people vaccinated by Jaime Ferrán only 54 died.
The creator of vaccines
The cholera vaccine was only the beginning, later others arrived. In 1886 he improved Pasteur’s procedures for the application of the rabies vaccine. In 1887 he created a primitive vaccine against typhus and soon worked on one for diphtheria. He also created a vaccine against tuberculosis but, despite so much effort, his work remained mostly in the dark and was practically ignored far from his environment.
In spite of everything, its discovery finally would be recognized in 1907 when the Academy of Sciences of Paris, granted the Bréant prize to him.
Although he was a very controversial character in Spain, his knowledge was recognized throughout Europe, also by the prophylaxis of cholera among the soldiers of the First World War.
His most outstanding works in scientific matter are Etiology of Malaria (1883), Studies of rabies and super prophylaxis (1889), New bacteriology of tuberculosis (1910), À propos du Microbe de la rage (1911), Vaccine against tuberculosis (1917), or the scientific paradoxes of tuberculosis (1920).
• U. TRUJILLANO, Ferrán, his sanitary work, Madrid 1945;
• G. MARAÑÓN, La pasión sobre Ferrán, in Medicine and doctors, Madrid 1962, 270-272;
• P. CAUS SEVILLA, Cholera of 1885 in Valencia and Ferran vaccination, in Medicine and Society in Spain from the s. XIX, Madrid 1964, 285-486.